Today I heard the three nicest words, the best words, the words which made me smile for the rest of the day. No, it wasn't "I love you", but something just as wonderful:
"It is benign."
I realize I had it very easy. A small mass was spotted on my kidney when I went in with the "kidney stone that roared" last week. I was able to have an MRI and get the results quickly. There was only a week to not think about what might lie ahead.
I didn't let myself think about the possibility of cancer growing in my abdomen like bind weed in our garden. I stayed away from thoughts about chemotherapy and radiation and surgery and I stayed completely away from the subject of death... for the first ten minutes or so.
Last summer, a friend lost her husband to cancer. He may have lost the battle anyway, but he had refused to see a doctor and refused to go to the hospital when he was very ill. Some weeks later, I was with a group of women and I was surprised to hear several of them say they would never want to be taken to the hospital if found unconscious and unresponsive - no matter what the issue might be. "Just let me die," one said, "death is a natural process."
I don't want to sound disrespectful, but hey, if I find someone on the street who is unresponsive, I'm calling 911, even if they have direct orders tattooed on their chest. They can argue it out with the paramedics or the docs in the ER if they'd like. I'm not making the decision to let someone die on the street. I'm all for natural processes, but I'm not against medical care.
Yes, I would go through chemo if it seemed a reasonable thing to do. It's not pleasant, but these drugs have come a long ways towards making cancer an illness to be managed rather than a death sentence. Everyone who goes through treatment helps the science get better.
I would never want to hurry my way out of the world, either. Suicide, whether assisted or not, does not appeal to me. Palliative care offered today is much more than lying in a hospice totally out of it on drugs. Quality of life is the focus of palliative care and those folks know what they're doing. I don't want to hurry anywhere. I've got grandkids.
All is good and, with a week to contemplate the mysteries of life and death, I decided if I had to go soon, I didn't have any regrets. I've had a wonderful life so far and I've been fortunate to share it with so many wonderful people.
This was a very small wake-up call, a reminder that all life is a gift and it owes us nothing.